New cybersecurity bill authorizes DHS to ramp up incident response efforts nationwide

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The National Cybersecurity Preparedness Consortium Act gives the Department of Homeland Security a range of opportunities to bolster cybersecurity preparedness at the state and local level, including and technical assistance services.

The Department of Homeland Security will soon be able to work with the National Cybersecurity Preparedness Consortium to ramp up its cybersecurity preparedness and incident response initiatives across the country after the Senate adopted the NCPC Act by unanimous consent.

The bill authorizes DHS to work with the national consortium of university-based training programs specializing in incident response and prevention, as well as cross-cutting cybersecurity training for state and local governments, first responders, industry stakeholders and critical infrastructure owners. 

According to the legislation, DHS can also collaborate with the consortium to provide technical assistance services and training to state, tribal and local officials nationwide. The NCPC includes training entities at the University of Texas at San Antonio, the University of Arkansas, the University of Memphis and the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service, among others. 

“Schools from the National Cybersecurity Preparedness Consortium, including Vermont’s own Norwich University, have developed expertise in cybersecurity training for countering cyber threats,” Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) who introduced the NCPC Act with Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said in a statement. “We know cyber threats become more manageable when state and local responders have quality training, and this bill opens up opportunities to better plan that training and build expertise.”

The legislation also allows DHS to work with other consortiums focusing on cybersecurity preparedness, and directs the agency to take into account factors like prior experience, geographic diversity and results-based metrics when determining whether to collaborate with specific organizations. 

Cornyn said in a press release after the House passed a version of the bill last month that the NCPC Act will aid DHS and the federal government in ongoing efforts to bolster “potentially disastrous cyber threats from Russian hackers that would weaken our infrastructure and military readiness” following Russia’s deadly invasion of Ukraine and repeated cyberattacks against the sovereign country and its critical infrastructure.

“This crucial bill will ensure our critical infrastructure operators and local governments are prepared for dangerous Russian cyber-attacks,” he added.

The bill now heads to the president's desk for approval.